By the early 2000s, record companies were taken with the idea of The Essentials. Of course, it means nothing -- the term is subjective and it really means "greatest hits." In 1993 Rhino released the fine Sweat 'n' Soul Anthology. Their 1969 Atlantic best-of also still gets the job done with eight more songs that are here on CD. Like many of the other less-than-perfect compilations, the songs pull this through. As for timeless and potent Stax, it's tough to find songs as immediate and fulfilling as "Hold on I'm Comin'" and the hilarious "Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody." While few competent singers could fail with the aforementioned tracks, The Essentials also offers songs that play to Sam Moore and David Prater's chemistry and strength as a duo. The oddly pretty "I Thank You," "Wrap It Up," and a later track, "Can't You Find Another Way (Of Doing It)," all have the highly charged sound, with Sam Moore's narrow tenor playing well to David Prater's big dolt. Fans have no doubt heard it all before and continue to love the songs. The problems with The Essentials are the skimpiness of the product, the exclusion of songs, and some arbitrary selections.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Elias